BELL TOWERS ARE TO LIMOUX WHAT CHATEAUX ARE TO BORDEAUX AND STONEWALL ENCLOSED VINEYARDS ARE TO BURGUNDY.
Located along the route from the walled city of Carcassonne to the Pyrenees, the Limoux region is set in the heart of Cathar country and is home to one of France’s oldest wine areas. The cradle of fine wines and famous specialities, including Crémant de Limoux and Blanquette de Limoux, this bountiful region is the birthplace of the first ever sparkling wine.
Mauzac is the renowned grape variety in the Limoux terroir (only found here and in the Gaillac vineyard). It is the reference grape variety of the AOP Limoux Blanquette de Limoux and the AOP Limoux Ancestral Method. Mauzac’s dominant aromas are aromas of apple, sometimes of pear, quince and honey.
Merlot N (minimum 45% in AOC/AOP reds), Pinot Noir N (Crémant de Limoux AOC/AOP white and rose, and the single variety in Haute Vallée IGP red), Cabernet Franc N, Cabernet Sauvignon N, Cot N (Malbec), Grenache N, and Syrah N
Ancestral Method: A method known as ‘ancestrale’ is entirely natural and made with 100% Mauzac grapes.
Its only components are the sugar in the grapes when harvested and the weather, or even cosmic conditions. The process follows a particular chronology. The must ferments until alcohol content in the wine reaches 5 to 6°. The wine is then bottled in March with the old or waning moon. In the secrecy of the cellar, it then undergoes bottle fermentation and its alcohol content rises to 6 or 7°. With its fine bubbles and attractive golden yellow hue, this is an eye-catching, mouth-watering wine. To the nose, it’s a compellingly subtle fusion of honey, acacia and stewed apple notes with beautiful freshness. Its lightness in the mouth makes it the perfect drink for ending a good meal on a delicately sweet, aromatic note. The same sweetness, which does not lack character, also makes it a gently sparkling option for impromptu afternoon breaks.
Food and wine pairing:
Its lightness makes it the perfect drink for ending a good meal on a delicately sweet, aromatic note. The same sweetness, which does not lack character, also makes it a gently sparkling option for impromptu afternoon breaks.
Blanquette de Limoux is made using what is known as the traditional method. During pressing of the grapes, the first juice is collected to make the prestige or ‘tête de cuvée’. The wines are then blended and a second fermentation in the bottle is produced by adding the ‘tirage’ liqueur. Whilst the wines spend nine months on the lees, the secondary bottle fermentation occurs. During this process, the remaining sediment is brought towards the neck of the bottle by daily riddling. After nine months, the neck of the bottle is frozen to expel the trapped sediment. Before the bottle is sealed with the final cork, the dosage is added, giving the wine its very dry, dry or medium dry flavor. The colour is a brilliant pale yellow with striking green or yellow glints… When gradually cooled to 6 or 7°C, Blanquette de Limoux offers up vigorous bubbles forming a ring around the top. Exceptionally impish, the nose recalls green apple, spring flower and sweet honeyed aromas.
Food and wine pairing:
Blanquette de Limoux should be enjoyed preferably within the first two years of purchase. Dry versions can be paired with an entire meal whilst medium-dry offerings sit well alongside desserts, particularly chocolate-flavoured ones.
Crémant de Limoux is fermented using the method known as traditional. During pressing of the grapes, the first juice is collected to make the prestige or ‘tête de cuvée’. The wines are then blended and a second fermentation in the bottle is produced by adding the ‘tirage’ liqueur. Whilst the wines spend nine months on the lees, the secondary bottle fermentation occurs. During this process, the remaining sediment is brought towards the neck of the bottle by daily riddling. After nine months, the neck of the bottle is frozen to expel the trapped sediment. Before the bottle is sealed with the final cork, the dosage is added, giving the wine its very dry, dry or medium dry flavour. Each bottle then spends another two months in the cellar. Its pale hue is enhanced by golden highlights, the bubbles are very fine and have an elegant tinge. To the nose, it shows a characteristic bouquet of white flowers coupled with subtle notes suffused with citrus and toast scents.
Food and wine pairing:
Like Blanquette de Limoux, Crémant de Limoux should be enjoyed preferably within two years of purchase and chilled to 6 or 7°C. It is usually served as an appetiser with savoury canapés but also makes a novel partner for fish and white meats.
Chardonnay, Chenin and Mauzac as single varietals or blends. The fruit is picked by hand to avoid crushing the grapes which must arrive at the winery in whole clusters for pressing. Another mandatory requirement is that the grapes must have a minimum alcohol content of 11° on the vine. In terms of winemaking, Limoux white wines are unique in that they are the only Languedoc appellation where fermentation and ageing must occur in oak casks. Ageing on fine lees, with manual stirring every fortnight, lasts until the May 1st after the harvest, sometimes longer depending on the wine grower’s approach.
Displays a beautiful clear colour with crystalline tints if the predominant varietal is Chenin or Mauzac, and more golden if Chardonnay prevails. When Chardonnay-dominant, it exudes vanilla, candied fruit and toasted hazelnut notes. When Chenin takes pride of place, it offers up scents of white flowers, peach and plum with beautiful minerality. And if Mauzac gets the upper hand, hallmark varietal aromas of green apple and pear are perceptible.
Food and wine pairing:
Should be drunk chilled, ideally at a temperature of 10°C. It partners with shellfish, fish and foie gras as well as all cheeses which show better with white wines than reds, like mature goat’s cheeses, Cantal or Pyrenean ewe’s milk cheese.
A blend of at least three grape varieties, including 45 to 70% Merlot, at least 20% Côt (Malbec), Syrah and/or Grenache and up to 35% Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet-Sauvignon. The wines are made by fermenting the fruit after destemming (for the age-worthy versions) or by carbonic maceration (for early-drinking wines), then matured in tanks or in oak, depending on the wine grower’s style or his/her way of approaching the vintage. They stay there until at least the May 1st of the year following the harvest.
Its intense hue with garnet and ruby highlights encapsulates the blend of Mediterranean grape varieties, which impart depth, and Atlantic varietals, which add nuance. When the blend is Atlantic-dominant (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot and Côt/Malbec), it delivers aromas of prune and leather with liquorice notes. When Mediterranean varieties (Syrah, Grenache) are predominant, it shows characteristic aromas of ultra ripe red fruits, spices and garrigue herbs.
Food and wine pairing:
Young or mature, it shows at its best when served at a temperature of 17°C. Young versions are better suited to pairings with grilled meats, whilst the mature wines are enhanced by slow-simmered dishes.
MORE ABOUT LIMOUX WINES
1938: Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC-AOP*) recognition of Limoux Blanquette de Limoux and Limoux Méthode Ancestrale sparkling wines
1959: Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC-AOP*) recognition of Limoux Blanc still white wine
1990: Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC-AOP*) recognition of AOC Crémant de Limoux sparking wines
2004: Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC-AOP*) recognition of AOC Limoux Rouge still red wine
Production area: 7 800 ha (19 275 acres)
Harvest: 90 000 hl on average (9 000 000 litres), 80% sparkling, 20% still
Terroir: Drawing on climate data from complex weather patterns, the vineyards can be divided into four ‘terroirs’, ranked in order of harvesting:
- The Terroir Méditerranéen: its hot climate is tempered by sea breezes that create ambient humidity, promoting a rapid increase in sugar levels.
- The Terroir d’Autun: surrounding the town of Limoux and sheltered from rainflow by two mountain ranges – the Corbières and the Chalabrais – this area enjoys a fairly hot, dry climate.
- The Terroir Océanique: characterized by a temperate, humid climate, exposed to westerly airflows. Ripening is approximately two weeks later here than in the two previous Terroirs.
- The Terroir de la Haute-Vallée: set in the upper reaches of the river Aude, towards the Pyrenees, this damper, colder area due to a late spring and cool autumn also has a higher elevation.
For more information about Limoux AOC-AOP* : https://www.limoux-aoc.com/en
* Created by the EU in 1992, the AOP label (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) designates products that have been produced, processed and developed in a specific geographical area, using the recognized know-how of local producers and ingredients from that region. The English equivalent is PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).